The Upcycled Cat Hut

We have an adorable, part-time, outdoor cat here at the Nest. His name is Johnny. Here’s a low quality GIF of his fuzzy face:

This cat is seriously so cute. Sometimes I can’t take it.

Rob and I would love nothing more than to have Johnny as a permanent feline resident here at the Nest. But, unfortunately, our two mostly-inside cats, Carly and Stella, have different plans. Despite Johnny’s even temperament and lack o’man parts, our two possessive ladies refuse to accept him. As a result, if the weather is bad, we must confine Johnny to the man cave when we bring him inside (with Carly and Stella always sulking on the other side of the door).

Don’t feel too bad for Johnny, though:

  1. We’ve collected some necessities for Johnny’s occasional sleepovers. A towel and mango box to sleep in (he LOVES it), several toys, food and water dishes, and his own litter box. We put them away when he leaves and bring them back out for his nights in.
  2. In an effort to make Johnny seem “owned”, we have attempted to put collars on him, but they disappear within days (either at Johnny’s own paw or someone else removes them). Update, as of this evening, he has “lost” his third collar — and smells like he’s been in someone else’s home.
  3. Rob and I happen to know that we are two of six (SIX!) residents in our complex who feed and love this cat. But, we’re pretty sure Johnny likes us best.
Fast asleep in his mango box.

Look at our boy, fast asleep in his mango box.

In the past couple of weeks, night temperatures have dropped here in the valley of the sun. Arizona natives know that, in some places, temperatures that dip into the 30s aren’t considered that cold. But listen here, this isn’t Minnesota. When it drops under 70 degrees, we start breaking out coats and boots. Get any lower, and it’s gloves and snow hats for us. But, when the temperatures are low enough to warrant plant blankets (seriously, we don’t want our plants to freeze), outdoor kitties should come inside.

But what about the nights that we can’t find Johnny? Or, worse, the nights that he refuses to stay inside all night? Sometimes, Johnny will come in for a snack and a nap, but at two in the morning, wakes with a start like he’s late for work. He will then cry at the door non-stop, while reaching for the doorknob. If we do not promptly take this hint, Johnny will find the closest place to spritz. That’s right, I said spritz. The other night, when we decided to wait for a commercial break to take him out, he crouched in our DVD drawer and took a tiny little piss. What gives, cat?!  Out you go.

This dilemma leads us to the real reason for this post: The Upcycled Cat Hut. We gotta know that Johnny isn’t going to freeze to death when we have to put him outside to prevent an onslaught o’urine.

I'm trying my hand at fonts and editing. What do you think?

I’m trying my hand at fonts and editing. What do you think?

Since I’m still unemployed, and it’s the holidays, I unfortunately don’t have money to spend on a nice bed for Johnny. But, even if I did, I worry that the series of stray cats in our neighborhood would come by to spray it, rendering it useless for Johnny to sleep in. So I figured, based on Johnny’s love of his mango box, a cardboard box hut was the way to go as a cheap free alternative.

That is where Costco boxes come in.The two lovely boxes for the structure of this box are Costco grocery leftovers; just the right size for what I needed. Once I had the structure picked out, the rest of the process took me about fifteen minutes, a few snips of the scissors, and cost me nothing. You ready?

Here is a list of materials that I used for the UCH (shut up, I love acronyms):

  • Two boxes (one for the top, one for the bottom)
  • Two styrofoam inserts (saved from the packaging a toolbox)
  • Two old blankets (approved for kitty use/ to go outside)
  • Scissors/exacto knife

That’s it! Seriously!

Step 1: Acquire boxes.

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Step 2: Cut down the styrofoam inserts to fit in the base.

Notice the gap on the right-hand side of the box. I later wedged a couple pieces of the styrofoam in there for additional insulation.

Styrofoam leftovers

Styrofoam leftovers

Step 3: Create a nice little nest in the middle with blanket #1.

See the styrofoam, there on the side?

See the styrofoam, there on the side?

Step 4: Cram the top box onto the base. I had to raise the front up higher than the back so Johnny could fit into the box.

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Step 5: Allow your jealous indoor cat to inspect the box. (This step is optional)

This isn't for me, is it? You bitch.

This isn’t for me, is it? You bitch.

Step 6: Move the box to your desired location.

Step 7: Wrap the box in blanket #2, as indoor cat #2 stares at you through the window. (Also, I let the blanket hang over the entrance for extra warmth)

Step 8: Wait to see if your little furry actually uses the box. I have yet to see Johnny climb into it, but I like to thing he snuggles down at night.

See! I told you it was going to be easy! If you make your own Cat Hut, let me know! I want to see it!

Meow,

Rachel

PS:  Bless you Costco, my cat can sleep warm at night (inside or outside) because of your free boxes.

Wholesome Spiced Carrot Pulp Muffins

The third recipe that I used for my juice pulp was found here: Wholesome Spiced Carrot Muffins.

These muffins ranked about a….eh….C in my book. Now, with all due respect to the baker, I take full responsibility for this recipe’s low grade. Why you ask? Well, the original recipe calls for chia seeds. I didn’t have any, so I omitted them from mine. However, it is noted in the original recipe’s instructions that the chia seeds should be soaked in 1/4 cup of water. Moronically, I forgot to add the 1/4 cup of water to my recipe, despite the lack of chia seeds. As a result, the muffins were dry and, for the lack of a better word, “blah”.

The recipe and photos on Jellibean Journals looked moist and delicious, so I am eager to attempt this recipe again. I encourage you to check out Jelli’s post, because I doubt that my version does the recipe justice. I also discovered the original recipe that inspired Jelli’s recipe, and that can be found at Kitchen Treaty.

Ingredients (makes approximately 12 muffins)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats (rolled or quick)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (I used low sodium baking powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used NoSalt Salt Alternative)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg (As usual, Better’n Eggs for me)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups carrot pulp
  • 1/4 cup water (this isn’t on the original ingredient list, but Jelli adds it to the recipe later in her instructions. I think that mine would have greatly improved if I’d had the water)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Add the wet ingredients in one bowl. Mix them together.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Then, mix mix mix.
  • Lightly grease the muffin pans or use muffin liners. Divide the batter into 12.
  • Bake the muffins until they pass the toothpick test (insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out of the muffin clean). For me, baking them took just over 20 minutes.
  • Allow the muffins to cool. Then, commence with nom-ing.

Here’s what I ended up with:

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My sad muffin mishap. Sorry for the poor photo quality.

Not adorable. But I’m optimistic for next time. Rob coined the name “fossilized poo muffins”– which we will re-name when I make the recipe CORRECTLY. Muffins with oats is a combination that I am eager to tackle. I’ll keep you updated as soon as I am ready to take it on again.

Rachel

Banana Carrot Pulp Muffins

This was our second favorite muffin recipe from this past week. I’ve now made it twice: once with regular carrot pulp and once with carrot puree (used in the Chocolate Deceit Muffin recipe). While I fully expected the carrot puree to win out, but I think I prefer this recipe with plain ol’ juice pulp. When I make it next, I will update you on the tie-breaking results.

I ambushed Rob and my parents with these muffins, looking for some feedback. We all gave them a thumbs up, I think a solid B. After tweaking the ingredients, I think they will be well on their way to five star status. What we especially liked was that they were tasty (obviously) but also really, really filling. We found that a couple hours after we’d had our juice, and our stomachs were starting to rumble, one muffin would help hold us over.

This recipe was adapted from Healthy Banana Carrot Muffins. The photos of Kimberly’s muffins looked like EXACTLY what I wanted, so her recipe was the one I chose. The only substitutions that I made were 1) applesauce for oil, 2) the addition of another banana (since I had two that were about to go bad), and 3) juice pulp/puree for the shredded carrots. I think I may go back and make Kimberly’s recipe EXACTLY as she made it, since her muffins are much prettier than mine.

Ingredients (makes approximately 12 muffins)

  • 1 Egg (Kimberly notes that the eggs should be ‘slightly beaten’ — but I just poured Better’n Eggs in and hoped for the best)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 3 tablespoons Unsweeted Apple Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 Bananas, pureed*
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Carrot Pulp or puree
  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar

* Since I love my Ninja, I went ahead and dropped the two bananas in it to make puree.

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Banana puree with the wet ingredients in a bowl in the background.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add the wet ingredients (eggs, applesauce, vanilla, milk, banana, and carrot) in one bowl. Mix them together.
  • Add the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Then, mix mix mix.
  • Lightly grease the muffin pans or use muffin liners. Divide the batter into 12.
  • Bake the muffins until they pass the toothpick test (insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out of the muffin clean). For me, baking them took between 30-40 minutes (the original recipe said 20 – 25 minutes).
  • Allow the muffins to cool. Then, commence with nom-ing.

I took a before and after photo of the muffins. I added oats on a few of them for decoration.

Muffin batter.

Muffin batter.

Done muffins.

Done muffins.

 

I will update you when I tweak this recipe more. The first batch, with the carrot pulp, really was better. Let’s see how the next batch goes.

Happy muffin-ing,

Rachel

Chocolate Deceit Muffins (Made with juice pulp! Gasp!)

These muffins are the best kind of lie; I couldn’t keep the recipe to myself anymore! The fact that I was able to sneak carrot and apple pulp into these muffins (as the main ingredient, no less) completely made my week. I mean, seriously, no one knew that there was juice pulp in those muffins but me; hence the name “Chocolate Deceit Muffins”.

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C’mon, would you guess that these are ALMOST healthy?!

Since I am NOT a baker of any kind, I also want to credit the writer whose recipe inspired my muffins. Rita at Mochachocolata Rita originally posted this Chocolate Carrot Cake Recipe. I found the recipe on Pinterest as the only Chocolate Carrot Loaf (though, the lack of results may be a result of my impatience, not for the lack of recipes). After a few tweaks, Rita’s recipe morphed into the Chocolate Deceit Muffins that I’m writing about today Wee!

Ingredients (makes approximately 12 muffins)

  • 2 Eggs (I used the equivalent with Better’n Eggs, since that’s what we had in the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons Unsweetened Apple Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Carrot Pulp Puree (This required me to add water to the carrot pulp to get the texture I wanted. See the notes/photos below*)
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder** (see additional note below)
  • 2 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder**
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder (I use low sodium baking powder because of my boyfriend’s heart condition)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt (I used NoSalt Salt Substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (a few for the top of each muffin. This is optional)

*A couple notes on the Carrot Pulp Puree:

I packed as much carrot pulp into 1 cup as I possibly could. I then dumped it into my Ninja.

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1 cup of carrot pulp into the Ninja

I added some water and blended the carrot pulp. I repeated this process until the pulp was an acceptable texture. With the added water, 1 packed cup of carrot pulp made 1 and 1/2 cups of carrot pulp puree.

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Carrot pulp + water = carrot pulp puree!

** The original recipe called only for unsweetened cocoa powder, but I personally love special dark cocoa powder, so I did a little mix-y mix-y action for this recipe. Use whichever cocoa powder you prefer.

Instructions (remember, I’m not a baker, so these may not be considered proper techniques!)

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Make 1 and 1/2 cups of carrot pulp puree
  • Add the wet ingredients (eggs, applesauce, vanilla, and carrot puree) in one bowl. Mix them.
  • Add the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder) in with the wet ingredients. Then, mix mix mix.
  • Lightly grease your muffin pans or use muffin liners. Divide the batter into 12.
  • Add the chocolate chips to the top of the muffins (optional).
  • Bake the muffins until they pass the toothpick test (insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out of the muffin clean). For me, baking them took between 30-40 minutes.
  • Allow the muffins to cool. Then, commence with nom-ing.

I took a few photos for you while I was baking!

Wet ingredients. Yummy!

Wet ingredients. Yummy!

Starting to add the cocoa powder (note the dark and regular cocoa)

Starting to add the cocoa powder (note the dark and regular cocoa)

Wet and dry ingredients combined!

Wet and dry ingredients combined!

Batter with chocolate chips into the muffin tins

Batter with chocolate chips into the muffin tins

I really, really, REALLY hope that you enjoy these muffins as much as I did! Let me know what you think of them!

Deceitfully yours,

Rachel

PS: I attempted to do the nutritional information on them. I may try to calculate it by hand to verify.
ChocolateMuffinNutrition

Starting the Juice Project

I’ve been vaguely interested in juicing for awhile now. Since I already make green smoothies, juicing seemed like a natural next step. However, two months ago, my interest was completely realized when a friend took me to the Original ChopShop Co. in Tempe, Arizona. After ordering not one, but two, of their Green Glory juices, I was hooked. However, I was NOT hooked on the price tag: $5.50 for 16 oz. of juice and $10 for 32 oz. My taste buds screamed “yes!”, my unemployed wallet screamed “no!”.

I was plotting how to get my hands on a juicer before we even left ChopShop’s patio. Figuring that the average juicer would set me back between $80 and $150– investing in one of my own seemed worth the mere 8 to 15 large ChopShop juices that would cost me the same. But then, I had an important thought: my parents already owned a juicer. When I called my mom to ask about it, she told me to come pick it up, as it was collecting dust in one of their cabinets. BRILLIANT.

The “Jack LaLanne Ultimate Power Juicer” now lives at our house (AKA: “The Nest”). I just used it this morning, as I was preparing to write this blog entry. Rob, my boyfriend, and I live here at the Nest. Here is what I used to make our juice for two this morning (more than enough for two people, now that I think about it):

Ingredients

  • 2 Honey Crisp Apples*
  • 1 Green Apple
  • 4 Large Carrots
  • 1 inch of Ginger Root
  • 1 Whole Cucumber
  • 1/2 a Lemon
  • 3 Heaping Handfuls of Spinach

*I have yet to see a recipe call for Honey Crisp apples. Since they’re such a delight to eat, I hadn’t remotely considered juicing them. That was until I knocked a fresh grocery bag full of them off of our counter; effectively bruising the $#*@ out of each and every apple. They then became fodder for juicing.

Here’s what I was working with this morning:

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Juicing ingredients. Nom nom nom.

First thing I’ve learned, as a juicing novice, is that it’s a-okay to leave the juicer running while re-filling the chute. Initially, I would stop and start the juicer each time I filled the chute. This caused the motor overheating after only a small glass o’juice. The trick is to juice the first round of fruit/veggies, remove the pusher, and then cover the chute with your hand while insert the next round. Seriously, make sure that you cover it, or slices of apple will be launched across your kitchen (not that I’ve experienced this.. cough cough).

My infatuation with juicing quickly lead me in an unexpected direction: leftover juice pulp. C’mon now, I took one look at the pulp and just knew that I couldn’t waste it. All of the fiber from the fruits and veggies was in there! I had to figure out something to do with it (besides throwing it out). This, of course, has led to extensive Pinterest searches. I’ve found that most common use for juice pulp is in muffins and breads. But there are also recipes for pasta filling, guacamole, crackers, and even dog treats!

This week, I tackled three separate juice pulp muffin recipes (entries to follow):

  1. Chocolate Deceit Muffins
  2. Healthy Banana Carrot Pulp Muffins
  3. Wholesome Spiced Carrot Pulp Muffins

These recipes have taught me another useful juicing practice: split up the items being juiced. For example: this morning, I juiced carrots, apples, ginger, and lemon in one basket. I removed that pulp from basket, then juiced the cucumber and spinach separately (but combined the juice to drink). Now I have car-ple-er-on pulp and cucum-nach pulp to contend with.

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Carrot and apple pulp (left), spinach and cucumber pulp (right)

Separating the carrots from the greens seemed helpful for this week’s recipes. I think I will likely be experimenting more with combining the two pulps, be sure to standby. Though, I might need to take a break from muffins. Manicotti anyone?

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It’s a little ridiculous how excited I am about juice pulp.

Hope to see you around these parts again soon,

Rachel

It’s Blog Introduction Time!

Hey there,

My name is Rachel. I just turned twenty-five and I live in Phoenix. As of the present, I am unemployed, but this is temporary. Most recently, I was a technical writer. It was fabulous. Though, my background is fairly diverse (read: sales, retail, leasing, enrollment, and transcription), my first love has always been writing.

I am not compelled to start a blog about writing; I love grammar and punctuation, but there are experts far more qualified to dish the writing dirt. That’s why I have decided to dedicate my blog to my two second loves:

  1. Bargain Hunting
  2. D.I.Y. Projects

I have a lot of respect for the saying “you get what you pay for”. But I also am always out for the best deal. This means that I tend to research most products/services/businesses waaaay too much diligently before committing one way or the other. I hope that I can share some of my finds with you.

When it comes to D.I.Y. projects, you can expect just about anything. I like crafts, home improvement and decorating, make up/nail polish, food, and mostly anything else that I realize I can “do myself” as an alternative to purchasing/paying someone to do for me. What this also means for you, as my readers, is that a “How To” (or “How Not To”) post will inevitably follow.

I should also inform warn you: most other blogs of this nature are written by wonderful human beings, with pure minds, and delicate sensibilities. You won’t find that here. Swear words and situations that earn R-ratings are thoroughly encouraged. What’s the polar opposite of creative house wife? Shit. I don’t know. A resourceful, but crude nester? Eh, that doesn’t have much of a ring to it. I’ll brainstorm and get back you to.

In case you were curious about the title of this blog, OperationRachel was the name for my very first blog (which was mostly a journal). The tagline read “Operation Rachel: Taking on Daily Life”, which seemed appropriate for a journal but not relevant to this blog. When I decided to branch out, OperationRachel was still the handle that I gravitated toward. Now, I suppose, I am looking at each of my projects as a mission. OperationRachel also rings the irony bell, since there is something of a military theme in the title, but I’m not nearly hardcore enough for that shit.

I hope that my readers visit with me for information, ideas, but mostly, for laughs. No one here is taking themselves too seriously. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’m not sure if you would want to, but feel free to reach out to me with any comments/ideas/thoughts. Sharing is caring, friends.

Nice to have met you,

Rachel